I consider today, November 15th, to be the date where it becomes socially acceptable to start getting into the Christmas spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the last person who will call anyone out for putting up lights the day after Hallowe’en. But society seems to regard November 1st as being too early, and admittedly it does feel a bit disrespectful to start belting out carols with a poppy on my chest. So, the 15th it is.

On the subject of Christmas then, one of my favourite Boy Meets World episodes is the Christmas episode in season six. In this episode, Eric gets a part-time job as Santa Claus at the local mall.

Eric quickly comes to love this job. He realizes how much happiness he can bring to children just by allowing them to sit on his lap and giving them a small gift. “I made her happy. I did that.” he remarks upon seeing a photograph of a beaming youngster.

Now, by this point in the series, Eric’s character is deployed almost exclusively as comic relief. And like any good comic relief character, he stretches the concept to the most ridiculous conclusion possible, and declares:

“I want the world’s happiness to be my responsibility!”

And for a time, it works out well for him. He spends a good chunk of his own money on toys to give to the kids who come to see him, and he makes all of them very happy.

Then comes one boy, holding a fire truck. He tells Eric/Santa that he was there yesterday, and was coming to return the fire truck. Eric asks why, and the boy responds that he’d only asked for the fire truck because initially he didn’t believe that Eric was really Santa. Having seen other kids get everything they’d asked for, he had come to believe that Eric was in fact Santa, complete with all of the magical powers that come with the gig. And so rather than a fire truck, the young boy says that what he’d really like for Christmas is parents.

Well, how do you respond to something like that?

We cut to later in the evening, and Eric is sitting on a park bench, still in his Santa suit. The snow accumulated on his lap suggests that he’s been there for a while.

And then Eric (who, may I remind you, is a comic relief character), starts to pray.

“What am I supposed to do? I made all those little kids smile. Took care of everyone who came to see me. No disrespect, but… why would you send me that little boy? Why doesn’t that little boy have parents?”

And then, a bit louder, he repeats himself: “Why would you send me that little kid?”

Finally, rising to his feet he says. “I will take care of this. I can be responsible for the happiness of one little boy.”

Giving a comic relief character a serious moment is a great way to stir up emotions in your audience, and this was no exception. I absolutely bawled the first time I saw this scene, and even a decade later it still hits hard.

I’ve always thought that Eric had the right idea. In my own life, every alternate career imagined myself in has always been about bringing happiness to people. I wanted to write a movie that would make millions of people laugh, I wanted to write a book that would make tens of thousands of people smile. I wanted to be the sort of teacher that would brighten up the lives of hundreds of students.

The number has become smaller over the years as I’ve realized my own limitations. I get that it’s not my lot in life to bring happiness to millions, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of people.

But God, give me one. I can handle it, I swear.

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